Snowbird Alert: Approach Mexico with Caution

Canadian snowbirds heading to south Texas and Arizona need to be on heightened alert this coming winter as the Mexican drug wars continue to intensify along the U.S. border and spread to other parts of the country. Before you travel into Mexico, consult your government travel warning service:  here’s how.

Scroll down the left side of our home page and click on Travel Reports and Warnings.  That will take you to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) website which lists advice on safety and security issues in foreign countries. Click on M for Mexico and read carefully.

We also advise that for greater perspective you click on the U.S. Travel Warnings and particularly the warnings from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which are often more timely and more specific. For example the FCO’s recent from Mexico states: “ In late September 2011 in the city of Veracruz, 35 bodies were dumped on a highway beside a major tourist destination and the following day, 14 more bodies were found in the city. The local authorities said the victims belonged to rival drug cartels. The Federal Government has sent reinforcements to the state in response.

Certainly if you were planning travel to theVeracruzarea that would catch your attention.

In effect, the Mexican drug wars are going from bad to worse, spreading now to the nation’s capital, Mexico City, where just last week police found two severed human heads near the city’s international airport. This occurred just a few days after they found five decomposing human heads in a bag placed just outside an elementary school inAcapulco. The heads are usually “warnings” left by one drug cartel to its opponent.

For many years, Winter Texans and snowbirds in southernArizonahave taken short sightseeing or shopping trips intoMexicoon a regular basis. But according to the DFAIT warnings and frequent media reports, you need to consider the risks of continuing this practice.  Just last week, for example, the Mexican cities of Matamoros and Reynosa, just across the border from south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, (home to thousands of Canadian and American snowbirds) were rocked by gunfights and grenade attacks among warring cartels.  The international bridge betweenMatamorosandBrownsvillewas temporarily closed as a result. And on a highway nearMcAllen—in the heart of snowbird country– a Mexican national was shot while driving along a busyU.S.highway. Frequent reports of shootings in community shopping malls on theU.S.side of the border have also occurred in broad daylight.

To date, most of the drug violence has not been targeted toward tourists, but that is little consolation to the families of hundreds of innocent tourists who have been caught in the crossfire in hundreds of communities, in virtually every Mexican state since these wars began.

If you go intoMexico, choose your destination carefully.  Avoid the northernborder states, in fact any of the states listed in the DFAIT, U.S. State Department, or UK FCO advisories.

Until the Mexican government gains control of its drug wars—which in the last five years have killed close to 40,000 people by official estimate—you may want to stay closer to home.

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